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Olympic Cocktails Honor the Games

Olympic Cocktails Honor the Games


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Even though the U.S. might not have won the Olympic bid for the 2012 games, Americans are eager to get in on the Olympic action. What better way to tip our hat to the Brits than British-inspired cocktails in honor of the games? While you may not be able to try the Olympic rosé, sipping on a carefully crafted cocktail will certainly be a brilliant substitute to imbue your evening with the spirit of the games.

If you want a drink that celebrates the British slant to these games, look no further than any variation on the British summer classic Pimm’s Cup. San Francisco’s Sir Francis Drake hotel is serving up a Five Rings Pimm Cocktail, with lemon, cucumber, mint, and peach soda. Many bars across the country are offering their version of a Pimm's Cup to celebrate the games, so keep your eyes open.

If you feel more like supporting team USA in its chase to the gold, then try any of the red-, white-, and blue-themed cocktails that are popping up at bars around the country. At First Food and Bar in Las Vegas, you can find a cocktail dubbed Team F.I.R.S.T. It’s the bar's classic summer games drink with Ultimat Vodka, Blue Curacao, Trader's Vic Orgeat Syru, sliced strawberries, and a lime.

For those interested in the overall spirits of the game, try something meant to look like the Olympic flame. Selected bars in Four Seasons hotels will be offering a drink called the Burning Torch Champagne Cocktail. A combination of champagne, drizzled with absinthe, topped with cava and elderflower liqueur, the flame part comes from the brown sugar in the bottom of the glass that is set on fire.

If you want to raise your glass to a specific sport, there's no shortage of cocktails to celebrate everything from cycling and rowing to women's boxing. At The Hawthorne, a Boston-based bar, you can find cocktails dedicated to all of the above. Our favorite: the ping-pong inspired cocktail, called the Spin Serve, and is mixed with gin, lemon, ginger, and honey.

Even though your eyes may be glued to every televised sport for the coming weeks, there's no reason to neglect drinking. With a variety of creative theme drinks, you'll be able to make the most of the Olympic Games — even if it doesn't include a trip to London.

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Passport to Fun: Travel-Inspired Party Ideas

As the host the 2014 FIFA World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympic Games, Brazil has emerged as one of the decade&rsquos hottest locales. That&rsquos great news for Cris McGrath, a Brazilian transplant to the U.S., who now runs a party-planning business and blog called Crissy&rsquos Crafts. She&rsquos been known to throw parties to celebrate Festa Junina: traditional June celebrations of eating, drinking, and dancing, that honor the saints Anthony, John, and Peter (as well as the harvest).

How to decorate: Beautify your space with bright lanterns, banners, and strands of lights. McGrath also pays homage to the country harvest by decorating with colorful straw hats, wicker baskets, and hay bales. You can even pull out your autumn scarecrows for this event. &ldquoA bonfire is a must,&rdquo adds McGrath, &ldquoIt keeps the bad spirits far from the lands of harvest.&rdquo

What to serve: Stick to a classic picnic-style menu, as simple as corn on the cob and hot dogs. McGrath also suggests abundant quantities of Brazilian sweets including pacoca (peanut butter candy), pe de moleque (peanut bars), sweet popcorn, brigadeiro (chocolate fudge), canjica (sweet corn pudding), and caramel apples. Adults will enjoy sipping on quentao (a Brazilian cider-like spiced tea) or batidas (tropical fruits cocktails). Check out recipes on the blog Flavors of Brazil.

What to wear: Festa Junina, like Brazilian Carnival, requires guests to party in costume for this event, outfits pay tribute to the origins of Brazilians' farming heritage and beloved country music. Males dress up as farm boys with large straw hats and plaid shirts. Females pull their hair in pigtails, paint freckles on their face, and wear red-checkered dresses or peasant dresses.

What to do: Since the Festa Junina typically includes guests of all ages, plan a few games that bring out the kid in everyone: musical chairs, egg-on-a-spoon relay, and a sack race. A typical "quadrilha" square dance may be harder to pull off, but make sure to download songs that give your guests a feel for what they're missing. Friends might even improvise their own dances once the party kicks into high gear. Search iTunes for "Festa Junina," or look for these traditional songs: Pula Fogueira, Capelinha de Melao, and Quadrilha Brasileira.

When party stylist Chris Nease was planning her husband's birthday, she revisited a trip the couple had taken to France. The occasion gave them a chance to celebrate their love of French culture and cuisine.

How to decorate: Nease decided to avoid obvious decoration options, like miniature Eiffel towers, and aim for a more authentic Parisian feel. She created a "shabby chic" European ambiance in her backyard, using eclectic antique items strategically staged around her yard. To create a bar area, she built her own pipe-and-drape system on which she hung curtains as well as empty, antique-looking picture frames. (Instructions are available at her site celebrationsathomeblog.com.)

She also emptied a small, antique dresser and used it as a wine and champagne station, with glasses peeking out of the empty drawers and bottles perched in garden urns. Other decorative items, such as vintage suitcases, globes, pomander balls, and French books gave an old-world feel to food tables, while old-fashioned frames and cafe-style chalkboards listed menu items. Nease created a simple banner by clothes-pinning personal photographs from her French vacation to a twine rope.

What to serve: French wine and champagne makes the perfect starting point for an elegant cocktail or dessert party. Nease stuck with pretty, easy-to-eat finger foods like goat cheese tarts with caramelized onions, brie tarts with strawberry preserves, and mini quiches. She also created snack cones &mdash filled with French fries &mdash out of decorative scrapbook paper embellished with fleur-de-lis.

A dessert table featured fruit tartlets, palmiers, chocolate-espresso butter cream macarons and the pièce de résistance: a croquembouche (tower of pastries) that Nease fashioned from store-bought cream puffs.

What to send home: Add a classy touch with a special party favor. Nease embellished simple brown paper bags with scrapbook paper, monogram tags and a fleur-de-lis wax seal. She filled the bags with monogrammed items like note pads and note cards. Other possible take-homes could include lavender sachets and soaps or a sampling of French chocolates with French roast coffee &mdash just enough for a petite pour.

Lori Lange, the author of the Recipe Girl cookbook and blog, loves the food and flavors of Greece: lamb, garlic, lemon, eggplant, and feta. So when it was her turn to host the neighborhood&rsquos gourmet get-together, she settled on a Greek theme. Opa!

How to decorate: Lange used the colors of the Greek flag, blue and white, accented with shiny gold to fashion a table worth of the gods. Blue and white dishes, tablecloth, and glass beads set the backdrop. She then created centerpieces using pieces of gold lame from the fabric store and vases filled with branches of golden-yellow blossoms and rosemary.

What to wear: For a playful crowd, encourage guests to wear togas, or offer artificial laurel wreaths to wear on their heads. If your group isn&rsquot quite as spirited, Lange suggests accessorizing outfits with flashy gold jewelry.

What to serve: Start the evening with appetizers that draw on Greece&rsquos signature ingredients. Lange served marinated eggplant with capers and mint goat cheese with olives, lemon and thyme, served on crisp rosemary flatbread and dried fig souvlaki &mdash all huge hits with her guests. She also concocted Greek mojitos, a twist on the classic Cuban mixed drink, which she made with Greek metaxa in place of rum.

A Greek meal traditionally centers around a signature lamb dish, like a roast or chops. If you&rsquore not a lamb lover or it&rsquos too pricey for your budget, look for a chicken recipe that calls for copious amounts of lemon, garlic, and rosemary. Lange&rsquos side dishes included a spinach, feta, and pine nut tart roasted garbanzo beans and garlic with Swiss chard (&ldquoa surprise favorite,&rdquo she says) and Greek potatoes with lemon vinaigrette. (All Lange&rsquos recipes are available at recipegirl.com.)

What to do: Let your guests test their knowledge of Greek history, geology, and mythology with homemade trivia cards distributed at each place setting. Go to quizlet.com and search for &ldquoGreek&rdquo to find plenty of interesting factoids.

Party stylist Chris Nease says ideas for parties hit her at the strangest times. &ldquoThere&rsquos always an inspiration piece to get juices flowing. This time it was little, red takeout boxes,&rdquo she says. What followed was an Asian-fusion dinner party spotlighting many of the flavors Nease and her friends love.

How to decorate: Nease stuck with Chinese color scheme of red, black, and gold, drawing on the takeout boxes that inspired the event. For the table centerpiece, she used a bamboo runner, then wrapped a bamboo placemat around a cylindrical vase and filled it with bamboo fronds and curly willow branches. Other accent pieces included Japanese fans, black and white river rocks, a Buddha statue she found at a discount store and a Japanese teapot her husband brought home from a business trip. Nonetheless, Nease cautions to keep the look uncluttered. &ldquoAsian decor is very sleek and minimalist,&rdquo she says. (To view her table, visit her site celebrationsathomeblog.com.)

What to serve: Asian restaurants have finger foods down to an art, so kick off the party with a selection of snacks made at home or ordered from a favorite eatery. Eggrolls, dumplings, sushi, and potstickers appeal to a wide crowd if you want to get adventurous, consider Thai-inspired shrimp or edamame hummus on rice crackers. Instead of standard cocktails, serve sake or soju (a Korean rice beverage) or offer a selection of Asian beers, such as Sapporo or Tsingtao.

For her main meal, Nease served chicken satay and Asian noodle salad. For dessert? Chinese fortune cookies, of course &mdash served in little red takeout boxes. Don&rsquot forget to end the meal with a steaming pot of green tea.

What music to play: Search online radio stations, such as pandora.com, spotify.com, or grooveshark.com to find an Asian music mix you enjoy. Pandora.com, for instance, offers an &ldquoAsian Instrumentals&rdquo station whose artists give traditional Chinese and Japanese instruments a smoother, jazz-like sound.

When her mother traveled back to Lisbon to research her family&rsquos Portuguese roots, Lori Lange caught the heritage bug. She pored over photographs from her mother&rsquos travels and paged through David Leite&rsquos cookbook, The New Portuguese Table, for ideas and inspiration. Then she threw a dinner party to share this newfound knowledge with friends.

How to decorate: Lange showcased Portugal&rsquos rustic, old-world beauty in her table decorations. She used a red tablecloth and richly patterned runner to create a warm backdrop, then added brown woven placemats reminiscent of Lisbon&rsquos cobblestone streets. She topped off each setting with thick ceramic plates and bowls. Centerpieces included vases filled with wine corks, wrapped in raffia, and adorned with chunky candles, a visual nod to the country&rsquos fine wines. (Visit recipegirl.com for more photographs.)

What to serve: &ldquoWhen I put on a party, I like to make it as authentic as possible,&rdquo says Lange, who even contacted cookbook author Leite to make sure she got the recipes just right. Her menu included appetizers of green olive dip and smoked ham with melon a Portuguese salad made with green peppers, cucumbers and plum tomatoes a spicy pork stew with clams and red pepper sauce and roasted potatoes with smoked sausage and tomatoes. Guests sipped sangria before dinner and sampled Portuguese wines throughout the meal. Lange said guests raved about dessert: an orange cake (bolo de laranja) made with olive oil instead of vegetable oil. For more Portuguese menu options, visit David Leite&rsquos site.

What to do: Lange&rsquos dinner party conversation centered on the Portuguese culture, which Lange could describe from her mother&rsquos travels and her own research. If you want to pre-empt any awkward silences, take it one step further and leave a conversation card with a fun fact about the featured locale at each place setting. &ldquoThat way everyone can learn something new about the country,&rdquo she says. For background music, keep it classical with 12-string guitar legend Carlos Paredes or reach for a more contemporary sound, such as Rodrigo Leão&rsquos O Mundo album.


Passport to Fun: Travel-Inspired Party Ideas

As the host the 2014 FIFA World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympic Games, Brazil has emerged as one of the decade&rsquos hottest locales. That&rsquos great news for Cris McGrath, a Brazilian transplant to the U.S., who now runs a party-planning business and blog called Crissy&rsquos Crafts. She&rsquos been known to throw parties to celebrate Festa Junina: traditional June celebrations of eating, drinking, and dancing, that honor the saints Anthony, John, and Peter (as well as the harvest).

How to decorate: Beautify your space with bright lanterns, banners, and strands of lights. McGrath also pays homage to the country harvest by decorating with colorful straw hats, wicker baskets, and hay bales. You can even pull out your autumn scarecrows for this event. &ldquoA bonfire is a must,&rdquo adds McGrath, &ldquoIt keeps the bad spirits far from the lands of harvest.&rdquo

What to serve: Stick to a classic picnic-style menu, as simple as corn on the cob and hot dogs. McGrath also suggests abundant quantities of Brazilian sweets including pacoca (peanut butter candy), pe de moleque (peanut bars), sweet popcorn, brigadeiro (chocolate fudge), canjica (sweet corn pudding), and caramel apples. Adults will enjoy sipping on quentao (a Brazilian cider-like spiced tea) or batidas (tropical fruits cocktails). Check out recipes on the blog Flavors of Brazil.

What to wear: Festa Junina, like Brazilian Carnival, requires guests to party in costume for this event, outfits pay tribute to the origins of Brazilians' farming heritage and beloved country music. Males dress up as farm boys with large straw hats and plaid shirts. Females pull their hair in pigtails, paint freckles on their face, and wear red-checkered dresses or peasant dresses.

What to do: Since the Festa Junina typically includes guests of all ages, plan a few games that bring out the kid in everyone: musical chairs, egg-on-a-spoon relay, and a sack race. A typical "quadrilha" square dance may be harder to pull off, but make sure to download songs that give your guests a feel for what they're missing. Friends might even improvise their own dances once the party kicks into high gear. Search iTunes for "Festa Junina," or look for these traditional songs: Pula Fogueira, Capelinha de Melao, and Quadrilha Brasileira.

When party stylist Chris Nease was planning her husband's birthday, she revisited a trip the couple had taken to France. The occasion gave them a chance to celebrate their love of French culture and cuisine.

How to decorate: Nease decided to avoid obvious decoration options, like miniature Eiffel towers, and aim for a more authentic Parisian feel. She created a "shabby chic" European ambiance in her backyard, using eclectic antique items strategically staged around her yard. To create a bar area, she built her own pipe-and-drape system on which she hung curtains as well as empty, antique-looking picture frames. (Instructions are available at her site celebrationsathomeblog.com.)

She also emptied a small, antique dresser and used it as a wine and champagne station, with glasses peeking out of the empty drawers and bottles perched in garden urns. Other decorative items, such as vintage suitcases, globes, pomander balls, and French books gave an old-world feel to food tables, while old-fashioned frames and cafe-style chalkboards listed menu items. Nease created a simple banner by clothes-pinning personal photographs from her French vacation to a twine rope.

What to serve: French wine and champagne makes the perfect starting point for an elegant cocktail or dessert party. Nease stuck with pretty, easy-to-eat finger foods like goat cheese tarts with caramelized onions, brie tarts with strawberry preserves, and mini quiches. She also created snack cones &mdash filled with French fries &mdash out of decorative scrapbook paper embellished with fleur-de-lis.

A dessert table featured fruit tartlets, palmiers, chocolate-espresso butter cream macarons and the pièce de résistance: a croquembouche (tower of pastries) that Nease fashioned from store-bought cream puffs.

What to send home: Add a classy touch with a special party favor. Nease embellished simple brown paper bags with scrapbook paper, monogram tags and a fleur-de-lis wax seal. She filled the bags with monogrammed items like note pads and note cards. Other possible take-homes could include lavender sachets and soaps or a sampling of French chocolates with French roast coffee &mdash just enough for a petite pour.

Lori Lange, the author of the Recipe Girl cookbook and blog, loves the food and flavors of Greece: lamb, garlic, lemon, eggplant, and feta. So when it was her turn to host the neighborhood&rsquos gourmet get-together, she settled on a Greek theme. Opa!

How to decorate: Lange used the colors of the Greek flag, blue and white, accented with shiny gold to fashion a table worth of the gods. Blue and white dishes, tablecloth, and glass beads set the backdrop. She then created centerpieces using pieces of gold lame from the fabric store and vases filled with branches of golden-yellow blossoms and rosemary.

What to wear: For a playful crowd, encourage guests to wear togas, or offer artificial laurel wreaths to wear on their heads. If your group isn&rsquot quite as spirited, Lange suggests accessorizing outfits with flashy gold jewelry.

What to serve: Start the evening with appetizers that draw on Greece&rsquos signature ingredients. Lange served marinated eggplant with capers and mint goat cheese with olives, lemon and thyme, served on crisp rosemary flatbread and dried fig souvlaki &mdash all huge hits with her guests. She also concocted Greek mojitos, a twist on the classic Cuban mixed drink, which she made with Greek metaxa in place of rum.

A Greek meal traditionally centers around a signature lamb dish, like a roast or chops. If you&rsquore not a lamb lover or it&rsquos too pricey for your budget, look for a chicken recipe that calls for copious amounts of lemon, garlic, and rosemary. Lange&rsquos side dishes included a spinach, feta, and pine nut tart roasted garbanzo beans and garlic with Swiss chard (&ldquoa surprise favorite,&rdquo she says) and Greek potatoes with lemon vinaigrette. (All Lange&rsquos recipes are available at recipegirl.com.)

What to do: Let your guests test their knowledge of Greek history, geology, and mythology with homemade trivia cards distributed at each place setting. Go to quizlet.com and search for &ldquoGreek&rdquo to find plenty of interesting factoids.

Party stylist Chris Nease says ideas for parties hit her at the strangest times. &ldquoThere&rsquos always an inspiration piece to get juices flowing. This time it was little, red takeout boxes,&rdquo she says. What followed was an Asian-fusion dinner party spotlighting many of the flavors Nease and her friends love.

How to decorate: Nease stuck with Chinese color scheme of red, black, and gold, drawing on the takeout boxes that inspired the event. For the table centerpiece, she used a bamboo runner, then wrapped a bamboo placemat around a cylindrical vase and filled it with bamboo fronds and curly willow branches. Other accent pieces included Japanese fans, black and white river rocks, a Buddha statue she found at a discount store and a Japanese teapot her husband brought home from a business trip. Nonetheless, Nease cautions to keep the look uncluttered. &ldquoAsian decor is very sleek and minimalist,&rdquo she says. (To view her table, visit her site celebrationsathomeblog.com.)

What to serve: Asian restaurants have finger foods down to an art, so kick off the party with a selection of snacks made at home or ordered from a favorite eatery. Eggrolls, dumplings, sushi, and potstickers appeal to a wide crowd if you want to get adventurous, consider Thai-inspired shrimp or edamame hummus on rice crackers. Instead of standard cocktails, serve sake or soju (a Korean rice beverage) or offer a selection of Asian beers, such as Sapporo or Tsingtao.

For her main meal, Nease served chicken satay and Asian noodle salad. For dessert? Chinese fortune cookies, of course &mdash served in little red takeout boxes. Don&rsquot forget to end the meal with a steaming pot of green tea.

What music to play: Search online radio stations, such as pandora.com, spotify.com, or grooveshark.com to find an Asian music mix you enjoy. Pandora.com, for instance, offers an &ldquoAsian Instrumentals&rdquo station whose artists give traditional Chinese and Japanese instruments a smoother, jazz-like sound.

When her mother traveled back to Lisbon to research her family&rsquos Portuguese roots, Lori Lange caught the heritage bug. She pored over photographs from her mother&rsquos travels and paged through David Leite&rsquos cookbook, The New Portuguese Table, for ideas and inspiration. Then she threw a dinner party to share this newfound knowledge with friends.

How to decorate: Lange showcased Portugal&rsquos rustic, old-world beauty in her table decorations. She used a red tablecloth and richly patterned runner to create a warm backdrop, then added brown woven placemats reminiscent of Lisbon&rsquos cobblestone streets. She topped off each setting with thick ceramic plates and bowls. Centerpieces included vases filled with wine corks, wrapped in raffia, and adorned with chunky candles, a visual nod to the country&rsquos fine wines. (Visit recipegirl.com for more photographs.)

What to serve: &ldquoWhen I put on a party, I like to make it as authentic as possible,&rdquo says Lange, who even contacted cookbook author Leite to make sure she got the recipes just right. Her menu included appetizers of green olive dip and smoked ham with melon a Portuguese salad made with green peppers, cucumbers and plum tomatoes a spicy pork stew with clams and red pepper sauce and roasted potatoes with smoked sausage and tomatoes. Guests sipped sangria before dinner and sampled Portuguese wines throughout the meal. Lange said guests raved about dessert: an orange cake (bolo de laranja) made with olive oil instead of vegetable oil. For more Portuguese menu options, visit David Leite&rsquos site.

What to do: Lange&rsquos dinner party conversation centered on the Portuguese culture, which Lange could describe from her mother&rsquos travels and her own research. If you want to pre-empt any awkward silences, take it one step further and leave a conversation card with a fun fact about the featured locale at each place setting. &ldquoThat way everyone can learn something new about the country,&rdquo she says. For background music, keep it classical with 12-string guitar legend Carlos Paredes or reach for a more contemporary sound, such as Rodrigo Leão&rsquos O Mundo album.


Passport to Fun: Travel-Inspired Party Ideas

As the host the 2014 FIFA World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympic Games, Brazil has emerged as one of the decade&rsquos hottest locales. That&rsquos great news for Cris McGrath, a Brazilian transplant to the U.S., who now runs a party-planning business and blog called Crissy&rsquos Crafts. She&rsquos been known to throw parties to celebrate Festa Junina: traditional June celebrations of eating, drinking, and dancing, that honor the saints Anthony, John, and Peter (as well as the harvest).

How to decorate: Beautify your space with bright lanterns, banners, and strands of lights. McGrath also pays homage to the country harvest by decorating with colorful straw hats, wicker baskets, and hay bales. You can even pull out your autumn scarecrows for this event. &ldquoA bonfire is a must,&rdquo adds McGrath, &ldquoIt keeps the bad spirits far from the lands of harvest.&rdquo

What to serve: Stick to a classic picnic-style menu, as simple as corn on the cob and hot dogs. McGrath also suggests abundant quantities of Brazilian sweets including pacoca (peanut butter candy), pe de moleque (peanut bars), sweet popcorn, brigadeiro (chocolate fudge), canjica (sweet corn pudding), and caramel apples. Adults will enjoy sipping on quentao (a Brazilian cider-like spiced tea) or batidas (tropical fruits cocktails). Check out recipes on the blog Flavors of Brazil.

What to wear: Festa Junina, like Brazilian Carnival, requires guests to party in costume for this event, outfits pay tribute to the origins of Brazilians' farming heritage and beloved country music. Males dress up as farm boys with large straw hats and plaid shirts. Females pull their hair in pigtails, paint freckles on their face, and wear red-checkered dresses or peasant dresses.

What to do: Since the Festa Junina typically includes guests of all ages, plan a few games that bring out the kid in everyone: musical chairs, egg-on-a-spoon relay, and a sack race. A typical "quadrilha" square dance may be harder to pull off, but make sure to download songs that give your guests a feel for what they're missing. Friends might even improvise their own dances once the party kicks into high gear. Search iTunes for "Festa Junina," or look for these traditional songs: Pula Fogueira, Capelinha de Melao, and Quadrilha Brasileira.

When party stylist Chris Nease was planning her husband's birthday, she revisited a trip the couple had taken to France. The occasion gave them a chance to celebrate their love of French culture and cuisine.

How to decorate: Nease decided to avoid obvious decoration options, like miniature Eiffel towers, and aim for a more authentic Parisian feel. She created a "shabby chic" European ambiance in her backyard, using eclectic antique items strategically staged around her yard. To create a bar area, she built her own pipe-and-drape system on which she hung curtains as well as empty, antique-looking picture frames. (Instructions are available at her site celebrationsathomeblog.com.)

She also emptied a small, antique dresser and used it as a wine and champagne station, with glasses peeking out of the empty drawers and bottles perched in garden urns. Other decorative items, such as vintage suitcases, globes, pomander balls, and French books gave an old-world feel to food tables, while old-fashioned frames and cafe-style chalkboards listed menu items. Nease created a simple banner by clothes-pinning personal photographs from her French vacation to a twine rope.

What to serve: French wine and champagne makes the perfect starting point for an elegant cocktail or dessert party. Nease stuck with pretty, easy-to-eat finger foods like goat cheese tarts with caramelized onions, brie tarts with strawberry preserves, and mini quiches. She also created snack cones &mdash filled with French fries &mdash out of decorative scrapbook paper embellished with fleur-de-lis.

A dessert table featured fruit tartlets, palmiers, chocolate-espresso butter cream macarons and the pièce de résistance: a croquembouche (tower of pastries) that Nease fashioned from store-bought cream puffs.

What to send home: Add a classy touch with a special party favor. Nease embellished simple brown paper bags with scrapbook paper, monogram tags and a fleur-de-lis wax seal. She filled the bags with monogrammed items like note pads and note cards. Other possible take-homes could include lavender sachets and soaps or a sampling of French chocolates with French roast coffee &mdash just enough for a petite pour.

Lori Lange, the author of the Recipe Girl cookbook and blog, loves the food and flavors of Greece: lamb, garlic, lemon, eggplant, and feta. So when it was her turn to host the neighborhood&rsquos gourmet get-together, she settled on a Greek theme. Opa!

How to decorate: Lange used the colors of the Greek flag, blue and white, accented with shiny gold to fashion a table worth of the gods. Blue and white dishes, tablecloth, and glass beads set the backdrop. She then created centerpieces using pieces of gold lame from the fabric store and vases filled with branches of golden-yellow blossoms and rosemary.

What to wear: For a playful crowd, encourage guests to wear togas, or offer artificial laurel wreaths to wear on their heads. If your group isn&rsquot quite as spirited, Lange suggests accessorizing outfits with flashy gold jewelry.

What to serve: Start the evening with appetizers that draw on Greece&rsquos signature ingredients. Lange served marinated eggplant with capers and mint goat cheese with olives, lemon and thyme, served on crisp rosemary flatbread and dried fig souvlaki &mdash all huge hits with her guests. She also concocted Greek mojitos, a twist on the classic Cuban mixed drink, which she made with Greek metaxa in place of rum.

A Greek meal traditionally centers around a signature lamb dish, like a roast or chops. If you&rsquore not a lamb lover or it&rsquos too pricey for your budget, look for a chicken recipe that calls for copious amounts of lemon, garlic, and rosemary. Lange&rsquos side dishes included a spinach, feta, and pine nut tart roasted garbanzo beans and garlic with Swiss chard (&ldquoa surprise favorite,&rdquo she says) and Greek potatoes with lemon vinaigrette. (All Lange&rsquos recipes are available at recipegirl.com.)

What to do: Let your guests test their knowledge of Greek history, geology, and mythology with homemade trivia cards distributed at each place setting. Go to quizlet.com and search for &ldquoGreek&rdquo to find plenty of interesting factoids.

Party stylist Chris Nease says ideas for parties hit her at the strangest times. &ldquoThere&rsquos always an inspiration piece to get juices flowing. This time it was little, red takeout boxes,&rdquo she says. What followed was an Asian-fusion dinner party spotlighting many of the flavors Nease and her friends love.

How to decorate: Nease stuck with Chinese color scheme of red, black, and gold, drawing on the takeout boxes that inspired the event. For the table centerpiece, she used a bamboo runner, then wrapped a bamboo placemat around a cylindrical vase and filled it with bamboo fronds and curly willow branches. Other accent pieces included Japanese fans, black and white river rocks, a Buddha statue she found at a discount store and a Japanese teapot her husband brought home from a business trip. Nonetheless, Nease cautions to keep the look uncluttered. &ldquoAsian decor is very sleek and minimalist,&rdquo she says. (To view her table, visit her site celebrationsathomeblog.com.)

What to serve: Asian restaurants have finger foods down to an art, so kick off the party with a selection of snacks made at home or ordered from a favorite eatery. Eggrolls, dumplings, sushi, and potstickers appeal to a wide crowd if you want to get adventurous, consider Thai-inspired shrimp or edamame hummus on rice crackers. Instead of standard cocktails, serve sake or soju (a Korean rice beverage) or offer a selection of Asian beers, such as Sapporo or Tsingtao.

For her main meal, Nease served chicken satay and Asian noodle salad. For dessert? Chinese fortune cookies, of course &mdash served in little red takeout boxes. Don&rsquot forget to end the meal with a steaming pot of green tea.

What music to play: Search online radio stations, such as pandora.com, spotify.com, or grooveshark.com to find an Asian music mix you enjoy. Pandora.com, for instance, offers an &ldquoAsian Instrumentals&rdquo station whose artists give traditional Chinese and Japanese instruments a smoother, jazz-like sound.

When her mother traveled back to Lisbon to research her family&rsquos Portuguese roots, Lori Lange caught the heritage bug. She pored over photographs from her mother&rsquos travels and paged through David Leite&rsquos cookbook, The New Portuguese Table, for ideas and inspiration. Then she threw a dinner party to share this newfound knowledge with friends.

How to decorate: Lange showcased Portugal&rsquos rustic, old-world beauty in her table decorations. She used a red tablecloth and richly patterned runner to create a warm backdrop, then added brown woven placemats reminiscent of Lisbon&rsquos cobblestone streets. She topped off each setting with thick ceramic plates and bowls. Centerpieces included vases filled with wine corks, wrapped in raffia, and adorned with chunky candles, a visual nod to the country&rsquos fine wines. (Visit recipegirl.com for more photographs.)

What to serve: &ldquoWhen I put on a party, I like to make it as authentic as possible,&rdquo says Lange, who even contacted cookbook author Leite to make sure she got the recipes just right. Her menu included appetizers of green olive dip and smoked ham with melon a Portuguese salad made with green peppers, cucumbers and plum tomatoes a spicy pork stew with clams and red pepper sauce and roasted potatoes with smoked sausage and tomatoes. Guests sipped sangria before dinner and sampled Portuguese wines throughout the meal. Lange said guests raved about dessert: an orange cake (bolo de laranja) made with olive oil instead of vegetable oil. For more Portuguese menu options, visit David Leite&rsquos site.

What to do: Lange&rsquos dinner party conversation centered on the Portuguese culture, which Lange could describe from her mother&rsquos travels and her own research. If you want to pre-empt any awkward silences, take it one step further and leave a conversation card with a fun fact about the featured locale at each place setting. &ldquoThat way everyone can learn something new about the country,&rdquo she says. For background music, keep it classical with 12-string guitar legend Carlos Paredes or reach for a more contemporary sound, such as Rodrigo Leão&rsquos O Mundo album.


Passport to Fun: Travel-Inspired Party Ideas

As the host the 2014 FIFA World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympic Games, Brazil has emerged as one of the decade&rsquos hottest locales. That&rsquos great news for Cris McGrath, a Brazilian transplant to the U.S., who now runs a party-planning business and blog called Crissy&rsquos Crafts. She&rsquos been known to throw parties to celebrate Festa Junina: traditional June celebrations of eating, drinking, and dancing, that honor the saints Anthony, John, and Peter (as well as the harvest).

How to decorate: Beautify your space with bright lanterns, banners, and strands of lights. McGrath also pays homage to the country harvest by decorating with colorful straw hats, wicker baskets, and hay bales. You can even pull out your autumn scarecrows for this event. &ldquoA bonfire is a must,&rdquo adds McGrath, &ldquoIt keeps the bad spirits far from the lands of harvest.&rdquo

What to serve: Stick to a classic picnic-style menu, as simple as corn on the cob and hot dogs. McGrath also suggests abundant quantities of Brazilian sweets including pacoca (peanut butter candy), pe de moleque (peanut bars), sweet popcorn, brigadeiro (chocolate fudge), canjica (sweet corn pudding), and caramel apples. Adults will enjoy sipping on quentao (a Brazilian cider-like spiced tea) or batidas (tropical fruits cocktails). Check out recipes on the blog Flavors of Brazil.

What to wear: Festa Junina, like Brazilian Carnival, requires guests to party in costume for this event, outfits pay tribute to the origins of Brazilians' farming heritage and beloved country music. Males dress up as farm boys with large straw hats and plaid shirts. Females pull their hair in pigtails, paint freckles on their face, and wear red-checkered dresses or peasant dresses.

What to do: Since the Festa Junina typically includes guests of all ages, plan a few games that bring out the kid in everyone: musical chairs, egg-on-a-spoon relay, and a sack race. A typical "quadrilha" square dance may be harder to pull off, but make sure to download songs that give your guests a feel for what they're missing. Friends might even improvise their own dances once the party kicks into high gear. Search iTunes for "Festa Junina," or look for these traditional songs: Pula Fogueira, Capelinha de Melao, and Quadrilha Brasileira.

When party stylist Chris Nease was planning her husband's birthday, she revisited a trip the couple had taken to France. The occasion gave them a chance to celebrate their love of French culture and cuisine.

How to decorate: Nease decided to avoid obvious decoration options, like miniature Eiffel towers, and aim for a more authentic Parisian feel. She created a "shabby chic" European ambiance in her backyard, using eclectic antique items strategically staged around her yard. To create a bar area, she built her own pipe-and-drape system on which she hung curtains as well as empty, antique-looking picture frames. (Instructions are available at her site celebrationsathomeblog.com.)

She also emptied a small, antique dresser and used it as a wine and champagne station, with glasses peeking out of the empty drawers and bottles perched in garden urns. Other decorative items, such as vintage suitcases, globes, pomander balls, and French books gave an old-world feel to food tables, while old-fashioned frames and cafe-style chalkboards listed menu items. Nease created a simple banner by clothes-pinning personal photographs from her French vacation to a twine rope.

What to serve: French wine and champagne makes the perfect starting point for an elegant cocktail or dessert party. Nease stuck with pretty, easy-to-eat finger foods like goat cheese tarts with caramelized onions, brie tarts with strawberry preserves, and mini quiches. She also created snack cones &mdash filled with French fries &mdash out of decorative scrapbook paper embellished with fleur-de-lis.

A dessert table featured fruit tartlets, palmiers, chocolate-espresso butter cream macarons and the pièce de résistance: a croquembouche (tower of pastries) that Nease fashioned from store-bought cream puffs.

What to send home: Add a classy touch with a special party favor. Nease embellished simple brown paper bags with scrapbook paper, monogram tags and a fleur-de-lis wax seal. She filled the bags with monogrammed items like note pads and note cards. Other possible take-homes could include lavender sachets and soaps or a sampling of French chocolates with French roast coffee &mdash just enough for a petite pour.

Lori Lange, the author of the Recipe Girl cookbook and blog, loves the food and flavors of Greece: lamb, garlic, lemon, eggplant, and feta. So when it was her turn to host the neighborhood&rsquos gourmet get-together, she settled on a Greek theme. Opa!

How to decorate: Lange used the colors of the Greek flag, blue and white, accented with shiny gold to fashion a table worth of the gods. Blue and white dishes, tablecloth, and glass beads set the backdrop. She then created centerpieces using pieces of gold lame from the fabric store and vases filled with branches of golden-yellow blossoms and rosemary.

What to wear: For a playful crowd, encourage guests to wear togas, or offer artificial laurel wreaths to wear on their heads. If your group isn&rsquot quite as spirited, Lange suggests accessorizing outfits with flashy gold jewelry.

What to serve: Start the evening with appetizers that draw on Greece&rsquos signature ingredients. Lange served marinated eggplant with capers and mint goat cheese with olives, lemon and thyme, served on crisp rosemary flatbread and dried fig souvlaki &mdash all huge hits with her guests. She also concocted Greek mojitos, a twist on the classic Cuban mixed drink, which she made with Greek metaxa in place of rum.

A Greek meal traditionally centers around a signature lamb dish, like a roast or chops. If you&rsquore not a lamb lover or it&rsquos too pricey for your budget, look for a chicken recipe that calls for copious amounts of lemon, garlic, and rosemary. Lange&rsquos side dishes included a spinach, feta, and pine nut tart roasted garbanzo beans and garlic with Swiss chard (&ldquoa surprise favorite,&rdquo she says) and Greek potatoes with lemon vinaigrette. (All Lange&rsquos recipes are available at recipegirl.com.)

What to do: Let your guests test their knowledge of Greek history, geology, and mythology with homemade trivia cards distributed at each place setting. Go to quizlet.com and search for &ldquoGreek&rdquo to find plenty of interesting factoids.

Party stylist Chris Nease says ideas for parties hit her at the strangest times. &ldquoThere&rsquos always an inspiration piece to get juices flowing. This time it was little, red takeout boxes,&rdquo she says. What followed was an Asian-fusion dinner party spotlighting many of the flavors Nease and her friends love.

How to decorate: Nease stuck with Chinese color scheme of red, black, and gold, drawing on the takeout boxes that inspired the event. For the table centerpiece, she used a bamboo runner, then wrapped a bamboo placemat around a cylindrical vase and filled it with bamboo fronds and curly willow branches. Other accent pieces included Japanese fans, black and white river rocks, a Buddha statue she found at a discount store and a Japanese teapot her husband brought home from a business trip. Nonetheless, Nease cautions to keep the look uncluttered. &ldquoAsian decor is very sleek and minimalist,&rdquo she says. (To view her table, visit her site celebrationsathomeblog.com.)

What to serve: Asian restaurants have finger foods down to an art, so kick off the party with a selection of snacks made at home or ordered from a favorite eatery. Eggrolls, dumplings, sushi, and potstickers appeal to a wide crowd if you want to get adventurous, consider Thai-inspired shrimp or edamame hummus on rice crackers. Instead of standard cocktails, serve sake or soju (a Korean rice beverage) or offer a selection of Asian beers, such as Sapporo or Tsingtao.

For her main meal, Nease served chicken satay and Asian noodle salad. For dessert? Chinese fortune cookies, of course &mdash served in little red takeout boxes. Don&rsquot forget to end the meal with a steaming pot of green tea.

What music to play: Search online radio stations, such as pandora.com, spotify.com, or grooveshark.com to find an Asian music mix you enjoy. Pandora.com, for instance, offers an &ldquoAsian Instrumentals&rdquo station whose artists give traditional Chinese and Japanese instruments a smoother, jazz-like sound.

When her mother traveled back to Lisbon to research her family&rsquos Portuguese roots, Lori Lange caught the heritage bug. She pored over photographs from her mother&rsquos travels and paged through David Leite&rsquos cookbook, The New Portuguese Table, for ideas and inspiration. Then she threw a dinner party to share this newfound knowledge with friends.

How to decorate: Lange showcased Portugal&rsquos rustic, old-world beauty in her table decorations. She used a red tablecloth and richly patterned runner to create a warm backdrop, then added brown woven placemats reminiscent of Lisbon&rsquos cobblestone streets. She topped off each setting with thick ceramic plates and bowls. Centerpieces included vases filled with wine corks, wrapped in raffia, and adorned with chunky candles, a visual nod to the country&rsquos fine wines. (Visit recipegirl.com for more photographs.)

What to serve: &ldquoWhen I put on a party, I like to make it as authentic as possible,&rdquo says Lange, who even contacted cookbook author Leite to make sure she got the recipes just right. Her menu included appetizers of green olive dip and smoked ham with melon a Portuguese salad made with green peppers, cucumbers and plum tomatoes a spicy pork stew with clams and red pepper sauce and roasted potatoes with smoked sausage and tomatoes. Guests sipped sangria before dinner and sampled Portuguese wines throughout the meal. Lange said guests raved about dessert: an orange cake (bolo de laranja) made with olive oil instead of vegetable oil. For more Portuguese menu options, visit David Leite&rsquos site.

What to do: Lange&rsquos dinner party conversation centered on the Portuguese culture, which Lange could describe from her mother&rsquos travels and her own research. If you want to pre-empt any awkward silences, take it one step further and leave a conversation card with a fun fact about the featured locale at each place setting. &ldquoThat way everyone can learn something new about the country,&rdquo she says. For background music, keep it classical with 12-string guitar legend Carlos Paredes or reach for a more contemporary sound, such as Rodrigo Leão&rsquos O Mundo album.


Passport to Fun: Travel-Inspired Party Ideas

As the host the 2014 FIFA World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympic Games, Brazil has emerged as one of the decade&rsquos hottest locales. That&rsquos great news for Cris McGrath, a Brazilian transplant to the U.S., who now runs a party-planning business and blog called Crissy&rsquos Crafts. She&rsquos been known to throw parties to celebrate Festa Junina: traditional June celebrations of eating, drinking, and dancing, that honor the saints Anthony, John, and Peter (as well as the harvest).

How to decorate: Beautify your space with bright lanterns, banners, and strands of lights. McGrath also pays homage to the country harvest by decorating with colorful straw hats, wicker baskets, and hay bales. You can even pull out your autumn scarecrows for this event. &ldquoA bonfire is a must,&rdquo adds McGrath, &ldquoIt keeps the bad spirits far from the lands of harvest.&rdquo

What to serve: Stick to a classic picnic-style menu, as simple as corn on the cob and hot dogs. McGrath also suggests abundant quantities of Brazilian sweets including pacoca (peanut butter candy), pe de moleque (peanut bars), sweet popcorn, brigadeiro (chocolate fudge), canjica (sweet corn pudding), and caramel apples. Adults will enjoy sipping on quentao (a Brazilian cider-like spiced tea) or batidas (tropical fruits cocktails). Check out recipes on the blog Flavors of Brazil.

What to wear: Festa Junina, like Brazilian Carnival, requires guests to party in costume for this event, outfits pay tribute to the origins of Brazilians' farming heritage and beloved country music. Males dress up as farm boys with large straw hats and plaid shirts. Females pull their hair in pigtails, paint freckles on their face, and wear red-checkered dresses or peasant dresses.

What to do: Since the Festa Junina typically includes guests of all ages, plan a few games that bring out the kid in everyone: musical chairs, egg-on-a-spoon relay, and a sack race. A typical "quadrilha" square dance may be harder to pull off, but make sure to download songs that give your guests a feel for what they're missing. Friends might even improvise their own dances once the party kicks into high gear. Search iTunes for "Festa Junina," or look for these traditional songs: Pula Fogueira, Capelinha de Melao, and Quadrilha Brasileira.

When party stylist Chris Nease was planning her husband's birthday, she revisited a trip the couple had taken to France. The occasion gave them a chance to celebrate their love of French culture and cuisine.

How to decorate: Nease decided to avoid obvious decoration options, like miniature Eiffel towers, and aim for a more authentic Parisian feel. She created a "shabby chic" European ambiance in her backyard, using eclectic antique items strategically staged around her yard. To create a bar area, she built her own pipe-and-drape system on which she hung curtains as well as empty, antique-looking picture frames. (Instructions are available at her site celebrationsathomeblog.com.)

She also emptied a small, antique dresser and used it as a wine and champagne station, with glasses peeking out of the empty drawers and bottles perched in garden urns. Other decorative items, such as vintage suitcases, globes, pomander balls, and French books gave an old-world feel to food tables, while old-fashioned frames and cafe-style chalkboards listed menu items. Nease created a simple banner by clothes-pinning personal photographs from her French vacation to a twine rope.

What to serve: French wine and champagne makes the perfect starting point for an elegant cocktail or dessert party. Nease stuck with pretty, easy-to-eat finger foods like goat cheese tarts with caramelized onions, brie tarts with strawberry preserves, and mini quiches. She also created snack cones &mdash filled with French fries &mdash out of decorative scrapbook paper embellished with fleur-de-lis.

A dessert table featured fruit tartlets, palmiers, chocolate-espresso butter cream macarons and the pièce de résistance: a croquembouche (tower of pastries) that Nease fashioned from store-bought cream puffs.

What to send home: Add a classy touch with a special party favor. Nease embellished simple brown paper bags with scrapbook paper, monogram tags and a fleur-de-lis wax seal. She filled the bags with monogrammed items like note pads and note cards. Other possible take-homes could include lavender sachets and soaps or a sampling of French chocolates with French roast coffee &mdash just enough for a petite pour.

Lori Lange, the author of the Recipe Girl cookbook and blog, loves the food and flavors of Greece: lamb, garlic, lemon, eggplant, and feta. So when it was her turn to host the neighborhood&rsquos gourmet get-together, she settled on a Greek theme. Opa!

How to decorate: Lange used the colors of the Greek flag, blue and white, accented with shiny gold to fashion a table worth of the gods. Blue and white dishes, tablecloth, and glass beads set the backdrop. She then created centerpieces using pieces of gold lame from the fabric store and vases filled with branches of golden-yellow blossoms and rosemary.

What to wear: For a playful crowd, encourage guests to wear togas, or offer artificial laurel wreaths to wear on their heads. If your group isn&rsquot quite as spirited, Lange suggests accessorizing outfits with flashy gold jewelry.

What to serve: Start the evening with appetizers that draw on Greece&rsquos signature ingredients. Lange served marinated eggplant with capers and mint goat cheese with olives, lemon and thyme, served on crisp rosemary flatbread and dried fig souvlaki &mdash all huge hits with her guests. She also concocted Greek mojitos, a twist on the classic Cuban mixed drink, which she made with Greek metaxa in place of rum.

A Greek meal traditionally centers around a signature lamb dish, like a roast or chops. If you&rsquore not a lamb lover or it&rsquos too pricey for your budget, look for a chicken recipe that calls for copious amounts of lemon, garlic, and rosemary. Lange&rsquos side dishes included a spinach, feta, and pine nut tart roasted garbanzo beans and garlic with Swiss chard (&ldquoa surprise favorite,&rdquo she says) and Greek potatoes with lemon vinaigrette. (All Lange&rsquos recipes are available at recipegirl.com.)

What to do: Let your guests test their knowledge of Greek history, geology, and mythology with homemade trivia cards distributed at each place setting. Go to quizlet.com and search for &ldquoGreek&rdquo to find plenty of interesting factoids.

Party stylist Chris Nease says ideas for parties hit her at the strangest times. &ldquoThere&rsquos always an inspiration piece to get juices flowing. This time it was little, red takeout boxes,&rdquo she says. What followed was an Asian-fusion dinner party spotlighting many of the flavors Nease and her friends love.

How to decorate: Nease stuck with Chinese color scheme of red, black, and gold, drawing on the takeout boxes that inspired the event. For the table centerpiece, she used a bamboo runner, then wrapped a bamboo placemat around a cylindrical vase and filled it with bamboo fronds and curly willow branches. Other accent pieces included Japanese fans, black and white river rocks, a Buddha statue she found at a discount store and a Japanese teapot her husband brought home from a business trip. Nonetheless, Nease cautions to keep the look uncluttered. &ldquoAsian decor is very sleek and minimalist,&rdquo she says. (To view her table, visit her site celebrationsathomeblog.com.)

What to serve: Asian restaurants have finger foods down to an art, so kick off the party with a selection of snacks made at home or ordered from a favorite eatery. Eggrolls, dumplings, sushi, and potstickers appeal to a wide crowd if you want to get adventurous, consider Thai-inspired shrimp or edamame hummus on rice crackers. Instead of standard cocktails, serve sake or soju (a Korean rice beverage) or offer a selection of Asian beers, such as Sapporo or Tsingtao.

For her main meal, Nease served chicken satay and Asian noodle salad. For dessert? Chinese fortune cookies, of course &mdash served in little red takeout boxes. Don&rsquot forget to end the meal with a steaming pot of green tea.

What music to play: Search online radio stations, such as pandora.com, spotify.com, or grooveshark.com to find an Asian music mix you enjoy. Pandora.com, for instance, offers an &ldquoAsian Instrumentals&rdquo station whose artists give traditional Chinese and Japanese instruments a smoother, jazz-like sound.

When her mother traveled back to Lisbon to research her family&rsquos Portuguese roots, Lori Lange caught the heritage bug. She pored over photographs from her mother&rsquos travels and paged through David Leite&rsquos cookbook, The New Portuguese Table, for ideas and inspiration. Then she threw a dinner party to share this newfound knowledge with friends.

How to decorate: Lange showcased Portugal&rsquos rustic, old-world beauty in her table decorations. She used a red tablecloth and richly patterned runner to create a warm backdrop, then added brown woven placemats reminiscent of Lisbon&rsquos cobblestone streets. She topped off each setting with thick ceramic plates and bowls. Centerpieces included vases filled with wine corks, wrapped in raffia, and adorned with chunky candles, a visual nod to the country&rsquos fine wines. (Visit recipegirl.com for more photographs.)

What to serve: &ldquoWhen I put on a party, I like to make it as authentic as possible,&rdquo says Lange, who even contacted cookbook author Leite to make sure she got the recipes just right. Her menu included appetizers of green olive dip and smoked ham with melon a Portuguese salad made with green peppers, cucumbers and plum tomatoes a spicy pork stew with clams and red pepper sauce and roasted potatoes with smoked sausage and tomatoes. Guests sipped sangria before dinner and sampled Portuguese wines throughout the meal. Lange said guests raved about dessert: an orange cake (bolo de laranja) made with olive oil instead of vegetable oil. For more Portuguese menu options, visit David Leite&rsquos site.

What to do: Lange&rsquos dinner party conversation centered on the Portuguese culture, which Lange could describe from her mother&rsquos travels and her own research. If you want to pre-empt any awkward silences, take it one step further and leave a conversation card with a fun fact about the featured locale at each place setting. &ldquoThat way everyone can learn something new about the country,&rdquo she says. For background music, keep it classical with 12-string guitar legend Carlos Paredes or reach for a more contemporary sound, such as Rodrigo Leão&rsquos O Mundo album.


Passport to Fun: Travel-Inspired Party Ideas

As the host the 2014 FIFA World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympic Games, Brazil has emerged as one of the decade&rsquos hottest locales. That&rsquos great news for Cris McGrath, a Brazilian transplant to the U.S., who now runs a party-planning business and blog called Crissy&rsquos Crafts. She&rsquos been known to throw parties to celebrate Festa Junina: traditional June celebrations of eating, drinking, and dancing, that honor the saints Anthony, John, and Peter (as well as the harvest).

How to decorate: Beautify your space with bright lanterns, banners, and strands of lights. McGrath also pays homage to the country harvest by decorating with colorful straw hats, wicker baskets, and hay bales. You can even pull out your autumn scarecrows for this event. &ldquoA bonfire is a must,&rdquo adds McGrath, &ldquoIt keeps the bad spirits far from the lands of harvest.&rdquo

What to serve: Stick to a classic picnic-style menu, as simple as corn on the cob and hot dogs. McGrath also suggests abundant quantities of Brazilian sweets including pacoca (peanut butter candy), pe de moleque (peanut bars), sweet popcorn, brigadeiro (chocolate fudge), canjica (sweet corn pudding), and caramel apples. Adults will enjoy sipping on quentao (a Brazilian cider-like spiced tea) or batidas (tropical fruits cocktails). Check out recipes on the blog Flavors of Brazil.

What to wear: Festa Junina, like Brazilian Carnival, requires guests to party in costume for this event, outfits pay tribute to the origins of Brazilians' farming heritage and beloved country music. Males dress up as farm boys with large straw hats and plaid shirts. Females pull their hair in pigtails, paint freckles on their face, and wear red-checkered dresses or peasant dresses.

What to do: Since the Festa Junina typically includes guests of all ages, plan a few games that bring out the kid in everyone: musical chairs, egg-on-a-spoon relay, and a sack race. A typical "quadrilha" square dance may be harder to pull off, but make sure to download songs that give your guests a feel for what they're missing. Friends might even improvise their own dances once the party kicks into high gear. Search iTunes for "Festa Junina," or look for these traditional songs: Pula Fogueira, Capelinha de Melao, and Quadrilha Brasileira.

When party stylist Chris Nease was planning her husband's birthday, she revisited a trip the couple had taken to France. The occasion gave them a chance to celebrate their love of French culture and cuisine.

How to decorate: Nease decided to avoid obvious decoration options, like miniature Eiffel towers, and aim for a more authentic Parisian feel. She created a "shabby chic" European ambiance in her backyard, using eclectic antique items strategically staged around her yard. To create a bar area, she built her own pipe-and-drape system on which she hung curtains as well as empty, antique-looking picture frames. (Instructions are available at her site celebrationsathomeblog.com.)

She also emptied a small, antique dresser and used it as a wine and champagne station, with glasses peeking out of the empty drawers and bottles perched in garden urns. Other decorative items, such as vintage suitcases, globes, pomander balls, and French books gave an old-world feel to food tables, while old-fashioned frames and cafe-style chalkboards listed menu items. Nease created a simple banner by clothes-pinning personal photographs from her French vacation to a twine rope.

What to serve: French wine and champagne makes the perfect starting point for an elegant cocktail or dessert party. Nease stuck with pretty, easy-to-eat finger foods like goat cheese tarts with caramelized onions, brie tarts with strawberry preserves, and mini quiches. She also created snack cones &mdash filled with French fries &mdash out of decorative scrapbook paper embellished with fleur-de-lis.

A dessert table featured fruit tartlets, palmiers, chocolate-espresso butter cream macarons and the pièce de résistance: a croquembouche (tower of pastries) that Nease fashioned from store-bought cream puffs.

What to send home: Add a classy touch with a special party favor. Nease embellished simple brown paper bags with scrapbook paper, monogram tags and a fleur-de-lis wax seal. She filled the bags with monogrammed items like note pads and note cards. Other possible take-homes could include lavender sachets and soaps or a sampling of French chocolates with French roast coffee &mdash just enough for a petite pour.

Lori Lange, the author of the Recipe Girl cookbook and blog, loves the food and flavors of Greece: lamb, garlic, lemon, eggplant, and feta. So when it was her turn to host the neighborhood&rsquos gourmet get-together, she settled on a Greek theme. Opa!

How to decorate: Lange used the colors of the Greek flag, blue and white, accented with shiny gold to fashion a table worth of the gods. Blue and white dishes, tablecloth, and glass beads set the backdrop. She then created centerpieces using pieces of gold lame from the fabric store and vases filled with branches of golden-yellow blossoms and rosemary.

What to wear: For a playful crowd, encourage guests to wear togas, or offer artificial laurel wreaths to wear on their heads. If your group isn&rsquot quite as spirited, Lange suggests accessorizing outfits with flashy gold jewelry.

What to serve: Start the evening with appetizers that draw on Greece&rsquos signature ingredients. Lange served marinated eggplant with capers and mint goat cheese with olives, lemon and thyme, served on crisp rosemary flatbread and dried fig souvlaki &mdash all huge hits with her guests. She also concocted Greek mojitos, a twist on the classic Cuban mixed drink, which she made with Greek metaxa in place of rum.

A Greek meal traditionally centers around a signature lamb dish, like a roast or chops. If you&rsquore not a lamb lover or it&rsquos too pricey for your budget, look for a chicken recipe that calls for copious amounts of lemon, garlic, and rosemary. Lange&rsquos side dishes included a spinach, feta, and pine nut tart roasted garbanzo beans and garlic with Swiss chard (&ldquoa surprise favorite,&rdquo she says) and Greek potatoes with lemon vinaigrette. (All Lange&rsquos recipes are available at recipegirl.com.)

What to do: Let your guests test their knowledge of Greek history, geology, and mythology with homemade trivia cards distributed at each place setting. Go to quizlet.com and search for &ldquoGreek&rdquo to find plenty of interesting factoids.

Party stylist Chris Nease says ideas for parties hit her at the strangest times. &ldquoThere&rsquos always an inspiration piece to get juices flowing. This time it was little, red takeout boxes,&rdquo she says. What followed was an Asian-fusion dinner party spotlighting many of the flavors Nease and her friends love.

How to decorate: Nease stuck with Chinese color scheme of red, black, and gold, drawing on the takeout boxes that inspired the event. For the table centerpiece, she used a bamboo runner, then wrapped a bamboo placemat around a cylindrical vase and filled it with bamboo fronds and curly willow branches. Other accent pieces included Japanese fans, black and white river rocks, a Buddha statue she found at a discount store and a Japanese teapot her husband brought home from a business trip. Nonetheless, Nease cautions to keep the look uncluttered. &ldquoAsian decor is very sleek and minimalist,&rdquo she says. (To view her table, visit her site celebrationsathomeblog.com.)

What to serve: Asian restaurants have finger foods down to an art, so kick off the party with a selection of snacks made at home or ordered from a favorite eatery. Eggrolls, dumplings, sushi, and potstickers appeal to a wide crowd if you want to get adventurous, consider Thai-inspired shrimp or edamame hummus on rice crackers. Instead of standard cocktails, serve sake or soju (a Korean rice beverage) or offer a selection of Asian beers, such as Sapporo or Tsingtao.

For her main meal, Nease served chicken satay and Asian noodle salad. For dessert? Chinese fortune cookies, of course &mdash served in little red takeout boxes. Don&rsquot forget to end the meal with a steaming pot of green tea.

What music to play: Search online radio stations, such as pandora.com, spotify.com, or grooveshark.com to find an Asian music mix you enjoy. Pandora.com, for instance, offers an &ldquoAsian Instrumentals&rdquo station whose artists give traditional Chinese and Japanese instruments a smoother, jazz-like sound.

When her mother traveled back to Lisbon to research her family&rsquos Portuguese roots, Lori Lange caught the heritage bug. She pored over photographs from her mother&rsquos travels and paged through David Leite&rsquos cookbook, The New Portuguese Table, for ideas and inspiration. Then she threw a dinner party to share this newfound knowledge with friends.

How to decorate: Lange showcased Portugal&rsquos rustic, old-world beauty in her table decorations. She used a red tablecloth and richly patterned runner to create a warm backdrop, then added brown woven placemats reminiscent of Lisbon&rsquos cobblestone streets. She topped off each setting with thick ceramic plates and bowls. Centerpieces included vases filled with wine corks, wrapped in raffia, and adorned with chunky candles, a visual nod to the country&rsquos fine wines. (Visit recipegirl.com for more photographs.)

What to serve: &ldquoWhen I put on a party, I like to make it as authentic as possible,&rdquo says Lange, who even contacted cookbook author Leite to make sure she got the recipes just right. Her menu included appetizers of green olive dip and smoked ham with melon a Portuguese salad made with green peppers, cucumbers and plum tomatoes a spicy pork stew with clams and red pepper sauce and roasted potatoes with smoked sausage and tomatoes. Guests sipped sangria before dinner and sampled Portuguese wines throughout the meal. Lange said guests raved about dessert: an orange cake (bolo de laranja) made with olive oil instead of vegetable oil. For more Portuguese menu options, visit David Leite&rsquos site.

What to do: Lange&rsquos dinner party conversation centered on the Portuguese culture, which Lange could describe from her mother&rsquos travels and her own research. If you want to pre-empt any awkward silences, take it one step further and leave a conversation card with a fun fact about the featured locale at each place setting. &ldquoThat way everyone can learn something new about the country,&rdquo she says. For background music, keep it classical with 12-string guitar legend Carlos Paredes or reach for a more contemporary sound, such as Rodrigo Leão&rsquos O Mundo album.


Passport to Fun: Travel-Inspired Party Ideas

As the host the 2014 FIFA World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympic Games, Brazil has emerged as one of the decade&rsquos hottest locales. That&rsquos great news for Cris McGrath, a Brazilian transplant to the U.S., who now runs a party-planning business and blog called Crissy&rsquos Crafts. She&rsquos been known to throw parties to celebrate Festa Junina: traditional June celebrations of eating, drinking, and dancing, that honor the saints Anthony, John, and Peter (as well as the harvest).

How to decorate: Beautify your space with bright lanterns, banners, and strands of lights. McGrath also pays homage to the country harvest by decorating with colorful straw hats, wicker baskets, and hay bales. You can even pull out your autumn scarecrows for this event. &ldquoA bonfire is a must,&rdquo adds McGrath, &ldquoIt keeps the bad spirits far from the lands of harvest.&rdquo

What to serve: Stick to a classic picnic-style menu, as simple as corn on the cob and hot dogs. McGrath also suggests abundant quantities of Brazilian sweets including pacoca (peanut butter candy), pe de moleque (peanut bars), sweet popcorn, brigadeiro (chocolate fudge), canjica (sweet corn pudding), and caramel apples. Adults will enjoy sipping on quentao (a Brazilian cider-like spiced tea) or batidas (tropical fruits cocktails). Check out recipes on the blog Flavors of Brazil.

What to wear: Festa Junina, like Brazilian Carnival, requires guests to party in costume for this event, outfits pay tribute to the origins of Brazilians' farming heritage and beloved country music. Males dress up as farm boys with large straw hats and plaid shirts. Females pull their hair in pigtails, paint freckles on their face, and wear red-checkered dresses or peasant dresses.

What to do: Since the Festa Junina typically includes guests of all ages, plan a few games that bring out the kid in everyone: musical chairs, egg-on-a-spoon relay, and a sack race. A typical "quadrilha" square dance may be harder to pull off, but make sure to download songs that give your guests a feel for what they're missing. Friends might even improvise their own dances once the party kicks into high gear. Search iTunes for "Festa Junina," or look for these traditional songs: Pula Fogueira, Capelinha de Melao, and Quadrilha Brasileira.

When party stylist Chris Nease was planning her husband's birthday, she revisited a trip the couple had taken to France. The occasion gave them a chance to celebrate their love of French culture and cuisine.

How to decorate: Nease decided to avoid obvious decoration options, like miniature Eiffel towers, and aim for a more authentic Parisian feel. She created a "shabby chic" European ambiance in her backyard, using eclectic antique items strategically staged around her yard. To create a bar area, she built her own pipe-and-drape system on which she hung curtains as well as empty, antique-looking picture frames. (Instructions are available at her site celebrationsathomeblog.com.)

She also emptied a small, antique dresser and used it as a wine and champagne station, with glasses peeking out of the empty drawers and bottles perched in garden urns. Other decorative items, such as vintage suitcases, globes, pomander balls, and French books gave an old-world feel to food tables, while old-fashioned frames and cafe-style chalkboards listed menu items. Nease created a simple banner by clothes-pinning personal photographs from her French vacation to a twine rope.

What to serve: French wine and champagne makes the perfect starting point for an elegant cocktail or dessert party. Nease stuck with pretty, easy-to-eat finger foods like goat cheese tarts with caramelized onions, brie tarts with strawberry preserves, and mini quiches. She also created snack cones &mdash filled with French fries &mdash out of decorative scrapbook paper embellished with fleur-de-lis.

A dessert table featured fruit tartlets, palmiers, chocolate-espresso butter cream macarons and the pièce de résistance: a croquembouche (tower of pastries) that Nease fashioned from store-bought cream puffs.

What to send home: Add a classy touch with a special party favor. Nease embellished simple brown paper bags with scrapbook paper, monogram tags and a fleur-de-lis wax seal. She filled the bags with monogrammed items like note pads and note cards. Other possible take-homes could include lavender sachets and soaps or a sampling of French chocolates with French roast coffee &mdash just enough for a petite pour.

Lori Lange, the author of the Recipe Girl cookbook and blog, loves the food and flavors of Greece: lamb, garlic, lemon, eggplant, and feta. So when it was her turn to host the neighborhood&rsquos gourmet get-together, she settled on a Greek theme. Opa!

How to decorate: Lange used the colors of the Greek flag, blue and white, accented with shiny gold to fashion a table worth of the gods. Blue and white dishes, tablecloth, and glass beads set the backdrop. She then created centerpieces using pieces of gold lame from the fabric store and vases filled with branches of golden-yellow blossoms and rosemary.

What to wear: For a playful crowd, encourage guests to wear togas, or offer artificial laurel wreaths to wear on their heads. If your group isn&rsquot quite as spirited, Lange suggests accessorizing outfits with flashy gold jewelry.

What to serve: Start the evening with appetizers that draw on Greece&rsquos signature ingredients. Lange served marinated eggplant with capers and mint goat cheese with olives, lemon and thyme, served on crisp rosemary flatbread and dried fig souvlaki &mdash all huge hits with her guests. She also concocted Greek mojitos, a twist on the classic Cuban mixed drink, which she made with Greek metaxa in place of rum.

A Greek meal traditionally centers around a signature lamb dish, like a roast or chops. If you&rsquore not a lamb lover or it&rsquos too pricey for your budget, look for a chicken recipe that calls for copious amounts of lemon, garlic, and rosemary. Lange&rsquos side dishes included a spinach, feta, and pine nut tart roasted garbanzo beans and garlic with Swiss chard (&ldquoa surprise favorite,&rdquo she says) and Greek potatoes with lemon vinaigrette. (All Lange&rsquos recipes are available at recipegirl.com.)

What to do: Let your guests test their knowledge of Greek history, geology, and mythology with homemade trivia cards distributed at each place setting. Go to quizlet.com and search for &ldquoGreek&rdquo to find plenty of interesting factoids.

Party stylist Chris Nease says ideas for parties hit her at the strangest times. &ldquoThere&rsquos always an inspiration piece to get juices flowing. This time it was little, red takeout boxes,&rdquo she says. What followed was an Asian-fusion dinner party spotlighting many of the flavors Nease and her friends love.

How to decorate: Nease stuck with Chinese color scheme of red, black, and gold, drawing on the takeout boxes that inspired the event. For the table centerpiece, she used a bamboo runner, then wrapped a bamboo placemat around a cylindrical vase and filled it with bamboo fronds and curly willow branches. Other accent pieces included Japanese fans, black and white river rocks, a Buddha statue she found at a discount store and a Japanese teapot her husband brought home from a business trip. Nonetheless, Nease cautions to keep the look uncluttered. &ldquoAsian decor is very sleek and minimalist,&rdquo she says. (To view her table, visit her site celebrationsathomeblog.com.)

What to serve: Asian restaurants have finger foods down to an art, so kick off the party with a selection of snacks made at home or ordered from a favorite eatery. Eggrolls, dumplings, sushi, and potstickers appeal to a wide crowd if you want to get adventurous, consider Thai-inspired shrimp or edamame hummus on rice crackers. Instead of standard cocktails, serve sake or soju (a Korean rice beverage) or offer a selection of Asian beers, such as Sapporo or Tsingtao.

For her main meal, Nease served chicken satay and Asian noodle salad. For dessert? Chinese fortune cookies, of course &mdash served in little red takeout boxes. Don&rsquot forget to end the meal with a steaming pot of green tea.

What music to play: Search online radio stations, such as pandora.com, spotify.com, or grooveshark.com to find an Asian music mix you enjoy. Pandora.com, for instance, offers an &ldquoAsian Instrumentals&rdquo station whose artists give traditional Chinese and Japanese instruments a smoother, jazz-like sound.

When her mother traveled back to Lisbon to research her family&rsquos Portuguese roots, Lori Lange caught the heritage bug. She pored over photographs from her mother&rsquos travels and paged through David Leite&rsquos cookbook, The New Portuguese Table, for ideas and inspiration. Then she threw a dinner party to share this newfound knowledge with friends.

How to decorate: Lange showcased Portugal&rsquos rustic, old-world beauty in her table decorations. She used a red tablecloth and richly patterned runner to create a warm backdrop, then added brown woven placemats reminiscent of Lisbon&rsquos cobblestone streets. She topped off each setting with thick ceramic plates and bowls. Centerpieces included vases filled with wine corks, wrapped in raffia, and adorned with chunky candles, a visual nod to the country&rsquos fine wines. (Visit recipegirl.com for more photographs.)

What to serve: &ldquoWhen I put on a party, I like to make it as authentic as possible,&rdquo says Lange, who even contacted cookbook author Leite to make sure she got the recipes just right. Her menu included appetizers of green olive dip and smoked ham with melon a Portuguese salad made with green peppers, cucumbers and plum tomatoes a spicy pork stew with clams and red pepper sauce and roasted potatoes with smoked sausage and tomatoes. Guests sipped sangria before dinner and sampled Portuguese wines throughout the meal. Lange said guests raved about dessert: an orange cake (bolo de laranja) made with olive oil instead of vegetable oil. For more Portuguese menu options, visit David Leite&rsquos site.

What to do: Lange&rsquos dinner party conversation centered on the Portuguese culture, which Lange could describe from her mother&rsquos travels and her own research. If you want to pre-empt any awkward silences, take it one step further and leave a conversation card with a fun fact about the featured locale at each place setting. &ldquoThat way everyone can learn something new about the country,&rdquo she says. For background music, keep it classical with 12-string guitar legend Carlos Paredes or reach for a more contemporary sound, such as Rodrigo Leão&rsquos O Mundo album.


Passport to Fun: Travel-Inspired Party Ideas

As the host the 2014 FIFA World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympic Games, Brazil has emerged as one of the decade&rsquos hottest locales. That&rsquos great news for Cris McGrath, a Brazilian transplant to the U.S., who now runs a party-planning business and blog called Crissy&rsquos Crafts. She&rsquos been known to throw parties to celebrate Festa Junina: traditional June celebrations of eating, drinking, and dancing, that honor the saints Anthony, John, and Peter (as well as the harvest).

How to decorate: Beautify your space with bright lanterns, banners, and strands of lights. McGrath also pays homage to the country harvest by decorating with colorful straw hats, wicker baskets, and hay bales. You can even pull out your autumn scarecrows for this event. &ldquoA bonfire is a must,&rdquo adds McGrath, &ldquoIt keeps the bad spirits far from the lands of harvest.&rdquo

What to serve: Stick to a classic picnic-style menu, as simple as corn on the cob and hot dogs. McGrath also suggests abundant quantities of Brazilian sweets including pacoca (peanut butter candy), pe de moleque (peanut bars), sweet popcorn, brigadeiro (chocolate fudge), canjica (sweet corn pudding), and caramel apples. Adults will enjoy sipping on quentao (a Brazilian cider-like spiced tea) or batidas (tropical fruits cocktails). Check out recipes on the blog Flavors of Brazil.

What to wear: Festa Junina, like Brazilian Carnival, requires guests to party in costume for this event, outfits pay tribute to the origins of Brazilians' farming heritage and beloved country music. Males dress up as farm boys with large straw hats and plaid shirts. Females pull their hair in pigtails, paint freckles on their face, and wear red-checkered dresses or peasant dresses.

What to do: Since the Festa Junina typically includes guests of all ages, plan a few games that bring out the kid in everyone: musical chairs, egg-on-a-spoon relay, and a sack race. A typical "quadrilha" square dance may be harder to pull off, but make sure to download songs that give your guests a feel for what they're missing. Friends might even improvise their own dances once the party kicks into high gear. Search iTunes for "Festa Junina," or look for these traditional songs: Pula Fogueira, Capelinha de Melao, and Quadrilha Brasileira.

When party stylist Chris Nease was planning her husband's birthday, she revisited a trip the couple had taken to France. The occasion gave them a chance to celebrate their love of French culture and cuisine.

How to decorate: Nease decided to avoid obvious decoration options, like miniature Eiffel towers, and aim for a more authentic Parisian feel. She created a "shabby chic" European ambiance in her backyard, using eclectic antique items strategically staged around her yard. To create a bar area, she built her own pipe-and-drape system on which she hung curtains as well as empty, antique-looking picture frames. (Instructions are available at her site celebrationsathomeblog.com.)

She also emptied a small, antique dresser and used it as a wine and champagne station, with glasses peeking out of the empty drawers and bottles perched in garden urns. Other decorative items, such as vintage suitcases, globes, pomander balls, and French books gave an old-world feel to food tables, while old-fashioned frames and cafe-style chalkboards listed menu items. Nease created a simple banner by clothes-pinning personal photographs from her French vacation to a twine rope.

What to serve: French wine and champagne makes the perfect starting point for an elegant cocktail or dessert party. Nease stuck with pretty, easy-to-eat finger foods like goat cheese tarts with caramelized onions, brie tarts with strawberry preserves, and mini quiches. She also created snack cones &mdash filled with French fries &mdash out of decorative scrapbook paper embellished with fleur-de-lis.

A dessert table featured fruit tartlets, palmiers, chocolate-espresso butter cream macarons and the pièce de résistance: a croquembouche (tower of pastries) that Nease fashioned from store-bought cream puffs.

What to send home: Add a classy touch with a special party favor. Nease embellished simple brown paper bags with scrapbook paper, monogram tags and a fleur-de-lis wax seal. She filled the bags with monogrammed items like note pads and note cards. Other possible take-homes could include lavender sachets and soaps or a sampling of French chocolates with French roast coffee &mdash just enough for a petite pour.

Lori Lange, the author of the Recipe Girl cookbook and blog, loves the food and flavors of Greece: lamb, garlic, lemon, eggplant, and feta. So when it was her turn to host the neighborhood&rsquos gourmet get-together, she settled on a Greek theme. Opa!

How to decorate: Lange used the colors of the Greek flag, blue and white, accented with shiny gold to fashion a table worth of the gods. Blue and white dishes, tablecloth, and glass beads set the backdrop. She then created centerpieces using pieces of gold lame from the fabric store and vases filled with branches of golden-yellow blossoms and rosemary.

What to wear: For a playful crowd, encourage guests to wear togas, or offer artificial laurel wreaths to wear on their heads. If your group isn&rsquot quite as spirited, Lange suggests accessorizing outfits with flashy gold jewelry.

What to serve: Start the evening with appetizers that draw on Greece&rsquos signature ingredients. Lange served marinated eggplant with capers and mint goat cheese with olives, lemon and thyme, served on crisp rosemary flatbread and dried fig souvlaki &mdash all huge hits with her guests. She also concocted Greek mojitos, a twist on the classic Cuban mixed drink, which she made with Greek metaxa in place of rum.

A Greek meal traditionally centers around a signature lamb dish, like a roast or chops. If you&rsquore not a lamb lover or it&rsquos too pricey for your budget, look for a chicken recipe that calls for copious amounts of lemon, garlic, and rosemary. Lange&rsquos side dishes included a spinach, feta, and pine nut tart roasted garbanzo beans and garlic with Swiss chard (&ldquoa surprise favorite,&rdquo she says) and Greek potatoes with lemon vinaigrette. (All Lange&rsquos recipes are available at recipegirl.com.)

What to do: Let your guests test their knowledge of Greek history, geology, and mythology with homemade trivia cards distributed at each place setting. Go to quizlet.com and search for &ldquoGreek&rdquo to find plenty of interesting factoids.

Party stylist Chris Nease says ideas for parties hit her at the strangest times. &ldquoThere&rsquos always an inspiration piece to get juices flowing. This time it was little, red takeout boxes,&rdquo she says. What followed was an Asian-fusion dinner party spotlighting many of the flavors Nease and her friends love.

How to decorate: Nease stuck with Chinese color scheme of red, black, and gold, drawing on the takeout boxes that inspired the event. For the table centerpiece, she used a bamboo runner, then wrapped a bamboo placemat around a cylindrical vase and filled it with bamboo fronds and curly willow branches. Other accent pieces included Japanese fans, black and white river rocks, a Buddha statue she found at a discount store and a Japanese teapot her husband brought home from a business trip. Nonetheless, Nease cautions to keep the look uncluttered. &ldquoAsian decor is very sleek and minimalist,&rdquo she says. (To view her table, visit her site celebrationsathomeblog.com.)

What to serve: Asian restaurants have finger foods down to an art, so kick off the party with a selection of snacks made at home or ordered from a favorite eatery. Eggrolls, dumplings, sushi, and potstickers appeal to a wide crowd if you want to get adventurous, consider Thai-inspired shrimp or edamame hummus on rice crackers. Instead of standard cocktails, serve sake or soju (a Korean rice beverage) or offer a selection of Asian beers, such as Sapporo or Tsingtao.

For her main meal, Nease served chicken satay and Asian noodle salad. For dessert? Chinese fortune cookies, of course &mdash served in little red takeout boxes. Don&rsquot forget to end the meal with a steaming pot of green tea.

What music to play: Search online radio stations, such as pandora.com, spotify.com, or grooveshark.com to find an Asian music mix you enjoy. Pandora.com, for instance, offers an &ldquoAsian Instrumentals&rdquo station whose artists give traditional Chinese and Japanese instruments a smoother, jazz-like sound.

When her mother traveled back to Lisbon to research her family&rsquos Portuguese roots, Lori Lange caught the heritage bug. She pored over photographs from her mother&rsquos travels and paged through David Leite&rsquos cookbook, The New Portuguese Table, for ideas and inspiration. Then she threw a dinner party to share this newfound knowledge with friends.

How to decorate: Lange showcased Portugal&rsquos rustic, old-world beauty in her table decorations. She used a red tablecloth and richly patterned runner to create a warm backdrop, then added brown woven placemats reminiscent of Lisbon&rsquos cobblestone streets. She topped off each setting with thick ceramic plates and bowls. Centerpieces included vases filled with wine corks, wrapped in raffia, and adorned with chunky candles, a visual nod to the country&rsquos fine wines. (Visit recipegirl.com for more photographs.)

What to serve: &ldquoWhen I put on a party, I like to make it as authentic as possible,&rdquo says Lange, who even contacted cookbook author Leite to make sure she got the recipes just right. Her menu included appetizers of green olive dip and smoked ham with melon a Portuguese salad made with green peppers, cucumbers and plum tomatoes a spicy pork stew with clams and red pepper sauce and roasted potatoes with smoked sausage and tomatoes. Guests sipped sangria before dinner and sampled Portuguese wines throughout the meal. Lange said guests raved about dessert: an orange cake (bolo de laranja) made with olive oil instead of vegetable oil. For more Portuguese menu options, visit David Leite&rsquos site.

What to do: Lange&rsquos dinner party conversation centered on the Portuguese culture, which Lange could describe from her mother&rsquos travels and her own research. If you want to pre-empt any awkward silences, take it one step further and leave a conversation card with a fun fact about the featured locale at each place setting. &ldquoThat way everyone can learn something new about the country,&rdquo she says. For background music, keep it classical with 12-string guitar legend Carlos Paredes or reach for a more contemporary sound, such as Rodrigo Leão&rsquos O Mundo album.


Passport to Fun: Travel-Inspired Party Ideas

As the host the 2014 FIFA World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympic Games, Brazil has emerged as one of the decade&rsquos hottest locales. That&rsquos great news for Cris McGrath, a Brazilian transplant to the U.S., who now runs a party-planning business and blog called Crissy&rsquos Crafts. She&rsquos been known to throw parties to celebrate Festa Junina: traditional June celebrations of eating, drinking, and dancing, that honor the saints Anthony, John, and Peter (as well as the harvest).

How to decorate: Beautify your space with bright lanterns, banners, and strands of lights. McGrath also pays homage to the country harvest by decorating with colorful straw hats, wicker baskets, and hay bales. You can even pull out your autumn scarecrows for this event. &ldquoA bonfire is a must,&rdquo adds McGrath, &ldquoIt keeps the bad spirits far from the lands of harvest.&rdquo

What to serve: Stick to a classic picnic-style menu, as simple as corn on the cob and hot dogs. McGrath also suggests abundant quantities of Brazilian sweets including pacoca (peanut butter candy), pe de moleque (peanut bars), sweet popcorn, brigadeiro (chocolate fudge), canjica (sweet corn pudding), and caramel apples. Adults will enjoy sipping on quentao (a Brazilian cider-like spiced tea) or batidas (tropical fruits cocktails). Check out recipes on the blog Flavors of Brazil.

What to wear: Festa Junina, like Brazilian Carnival, requires guests to party in costume for this event, outfits pay tribute to the origins of Brazilians' farming heritage and beloved country music. Males dress up as farm boys with large straw hats and plaid shirts. Females pull their hair in pigtails, paint freckles on their face, and wear red-checkered dresses or peasant dresses.

What to do: Since the Festa Junina typically includes guests of all ages, plan a few games that bring out the kid in everyone: musical chairs, egg-on-a-spoon relay, and a sack race. A typical "quadrilha" square dance may be harder to pull off, but make sure to download songs that give your guests a feel for what they're missing. Friends might even improvise their own dances once the party kicks into high gear. Search iTunes for "Festa Junina," or look for these traditional songs: Pula Fogueira, Capelinha de Melao, and Quadrilha Brasileira.

When party stylist Chris Nease was planning her husband's birthday, she revisited a trip the couple had taken to France. The occasion gave them a chance to celebrate their love of French culture and cuisine.

How to decorate: Nease decided to avoid obvious decoration options, like miniature Eiffel towers, and aim for a more authentic Parisian feel. She created a "shabby chic" European ambiance in her backyard, using eclectic antique items strategically staged around her yard. To create a bar area, she built her own pipe-and-drape system on which she hung curtains as well as empty, antique-looking picture frames. (Instructions are available at her site celebrationsathomeblog.com.)

She also emptied a small, antique dresser and used it as a wine and champagne station, with glasses peeking out of the empty drawers and bottles perched in garden urns. Other decorative items, such as vintage suitcases, globes, pomander balls, and French books gave an old-world feel to food tables, while old-fashioned frames and cafe-style chalkboards listed menu items. Nease created a simple banner by clothes-pinning personal photographs from her French vacation to a twine rope.

What to serve: French wine and champagne makes the perfect starting point for an elegant cocktail or dessert party. Nease stuck with pretty, easy-to-eat finger foods like goat cheese tarts with caramelized onions, brie tarts with strawberry preserves, and mini quiches. She also created snack cones &mdash filled with French fries &mdash out of decorative scrapbook paper embellished with fleur-de-lis.

A dessert table featured fruit tartlets, palmiers, chocolate-espresso butter cream macarons and the pièce de résistance: a croquembouche (tower of pastries) that Nease fashioned from store-bought cream puffs.

What to send home: Add a classy touch with a special party favor. Nease embellished simple brown paper bags with scrapbook paper, monogram tags and a fleur-de-lis wax seal. She filled the bags with monogrammed items like note pads and note cards. Other possible take-homes could include lavender sachets and soaps or a sampling of French chocolates with French roast coffee &mdash just enough for a petite pour.

Lori Lange, the author of the Recipe Girl cookbook and blog, loves the food and flavors of Greece: lamb, garlic, lemon, eggplant, and feta. So when it was her turn to host the neighborhood&rsquos gourmet get-together, she settled on a Greek theme. Opa!

How to decorate: Lange used the colors of the Greek flag, blue and white, accented with shiny gold to fashion a table worth of the gods. Blue and white dishes, tablecloth, and glass beads set the backdrop. She then created centerpieces using pieces of gold lame from the fabric store and vases filled with branches of golden-yellow blossoms and rosemary.

What to wear: For a playful crowd, encourage guests to wear togas, or offer artificial laurel wreaths to wear on their heads. If your group isn&rsquot quite as spirited, Lange suggests accessorizing outfits with flashy gold jewelry.

What to serve: Start the evening with appetizers that draw on Greece&rsquos signature ingredients. Lange served marinated eggplant with capers and mint goat cheese with olives, lemon and thyme, served on crisp rosemary flatbread and dried fig souvlaki &mdash all huge hits with her guests. She also concocted Greek mojitos, a twist on the classic Cuban mixed drink, which she made with Greek metaxa in place of rum.

A Greek meal traditionally centers around a signature lamb dish, like a roast or chops. If you&rsquore not a lamb lover or it&rsquos too pricey for your budget, look for a chicken recipe that calls for copious amounts of lemon, garlic, and rosemary. Lange&rsquos side dishes included a spinach, feta, and pine nut tart roasted garbanzo beans and garlic with Swiss chard (&ldquoa surprise favorite,&rdquo she says) and Greek potatoes with lemon vinaigrette. (All Lange&rsquos recipes are available at recipegirl.com.)

What to do: Let your guests test their knowledge of Greek history, geology, and mythology with homemade trivia cards distributed at each place setting. Go to quizlet.com and search for &ldquoGreek&rdquo to find plenty of interesting factoids.

Party stylist Chris Nease says ideas for parties hit her at the strangest times. &ldquoThere&rsquos always an inspiration piece to get juices flowing. This time it was little, red takeout boxes,&rdquo she says. What followed was an Asian-fusion dinner party spotlighting many of the flavors Nease and her friends love.

How to decorate: Nease stuck with Chinese color scheme of red, black, and gold, drawing on the takeout boxes that inspired the event. For the table centerpiece, she used a bamboo runner, then wrapped a bamboo placemat around a cylindrical vase and filled it with bamboo fronds and curly willow branches. Other accent pieces included Japanese fans, black and white river rocks, a Buddha statue she found at a discount store and a Japanese teapot her husband brought home from a business trip. Nonetheless, Nease cautions to keep the look uncluttered. &ldquoAsian decor is very sleek and minimalist,&rdquo she says. (To view her table, visit her site celebrationsathomeblog.com.)

What to serve: Asian restaurants have finger foods down to an art, so kick off the party with a selection of snacks made at home or ordered from a favorite eatery. Eggrolls, dumplings, sushi, and potstickers appeal to a wide crowd if you want to get adventurous, consider Thai-inspired shrimp or edamame hummus on rice crackers. Instead of standard cocktails, serve sake or soju (a Korean rice beverage) or offer a selection of Asian beers, such as Sapporo or Tsingtao.

For her main meal, Nease served chicken satay and Asian noodle salad. For dessert? Chinese fortune cookies, of course &mdash served in little red takeout boxes. Don&rsquot forget to end the meal with a steaming pot of green tea.

What music to play: Search online radio stations, such as pandora.com, spotify.com, or grooveshark.com to find an Asian music mix you enjoy. Pandora.com, for instance, offers an &ldquoAsian Instrumentals&rdquo station whose artists give traditional Chinese and Japanese instruments a smoother, jazz-like sound.

When her mother traveled back to Lisbon to research her family&rsquos Portuguese roots, Lori Lange caught the heritage bug. She pored over photographs from her mother&rsquos travels and paged through David Leite&rsquos cookbook, The New Portuguese Table, for ideas and inspiration. Then she threw a dinner party to share this newfound knowledge with friends.

How to decorate: Lange showcased Portugal&rsquos rustic, old-world beauty in her table decorations. She used a red tablecloth and richly patterned runner to create a warm backdrop, then added brown woven placemats reminiscent of Lisbon&rsquos cobblestone streets. She topped off each setting with thick ceramic plates and bowls. Centerpieces included vases filled with wine corks, wrapped in raffia, and adorned with chunky candles, a visual nod to the country&rsquos fine wines. (Visit recipegirl.com for more photographs.)

What to serve: &ldquoWhen I put on a party, I like to make it as authentic as possible,&rdquo says Lange, who even contacted cookbook author Leite to make sure she got the recipes just right. Her menu included appetizers of green olive dip and smoked ham with melon a Portuguese salad made with green peppers, cucumbers and plum tomatoes a spicy pork stew with clams and red pepper sauce and roasted potatoes with smoked sausage and tomatoes. Guests sipped sangria before dinner and sampled Portuguese wines throughout the meal. Lange said guests raved about dessert: an orange cake (bolo de laranja) made with olive oil instead of vegetable oil. For more Portuguese menu options, visit David Leite&rsquos site.

What to do: Lange&rsquos dinner party conversation centered on the Portuguese culture, which Lange could describe from her mother&rsquos travels and her own research. If you want to pre-empt any awkward silences, take it one step further and leave a conversation card with a fun fact about the featured locale at each place setting. &ldquoThat way everyone can learn something new about the country,&rdquo she says. For background music, keep it classical with 12-string guitar legend Carlos Paredes or reach for a more contemporary sound, such as Rodrigo Leão&rsquos O Mundo album.


Passport to Fun: Travel-Inspired Party Ideas

As the host the 2014 FIFA World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympic Games, Brazil has emerged as one of the decade&rsquos hottest locales. That&rsquos great news for Cris McGrath, a Brazilian transplant to the U.S., who now runs a party-planning business and blog called Crissy&rsquos Crafts. She&rsquos been known to throw parties to celebrate Festa Junina: traditional June celebrations of eating, drinking, and dancing, that honor the saints Anthony, John, and Peter (as well as the harvest).

How to decorate: Beautify your space with bright lanterns, banners, and strands of lights. McGrath also pays homage to the country harvest by decorating with colorful straw hats, wicker baskets, and hay bales. You can even pull out your autumn scarecrows for this event. &ldquoA bonfire is a must,&rdquo adds McGrath, &ldquoIt keeps the bad spirits far from the lands of harvest.&rdquo

What to serve: Stick to a classic picnic-style menu, as simple as corn on the cob and hot dogs. McGrath also suggests abundant quantities of Brazilian sweets including pacoca (peanut butter candy), pe de moleque (peanut bars), sweet popcorn, brigadeiro (chocolate fudge), canjica (sweet corn pudding), and caramel apples. Adults will enjoy sipping on quentao (a Brazilian cider-like spiced tea) or batidas (tropical fruits cocktails). Check out recipes on the blog Flavors of Brazil.

What to wear: Festa Junina, like Brazilian Carnival, requires guests to party in costume for this event, outfits pay tribute to the origins of Brazilians' farming heritage and beloved country music. Males dress up as farm boys with large straw hats and plaid shirts. Females pull their hair in pigtails, paint freckles on their face, and wear red-checkered dresses or peasant dresses.

What to do: Since the Festa Junina typically includes guests of all ages, plan a few games that bring out the kid in everyone: musical chairs, egg-on-a-spoon relay, and a sack race. A typical "quadrilha" square dance may be harder to pull off, but make sure to download songs that give your guests a feel for what they're missing. Friends might even improvise their own dances once the party kicks into high gear. Search iTunes for "Festa Junina," or look for these traditional songs: Pula Fogueira, Capelinha de Melao, and Quadrilha Brasileira.

When party stylist Chris Nease was planning her husband's birthday, she revisited a trip the couple had taken to France. The occasion gave them a chance to celebrate their love of French culture and cuisine.

How to decorate: Nease decided to avoid obvious decoration options, like miniature Eiffel towers, and aim for a more authentic Parisian feel. She created a "shabby chic" European ambiance in her backyard, using eclectic antique items strategically staged around her yard. To create a bar area, she built her own pipe-and-drape system on which she hung curtains as well as empty, antique-looking picture frames. (Instructions are available at her site celebrationsathomeblog.com.)

She also emptied a small, antique dresser and used it as a wine and champagne station, with glasses peeking out of the empty drawers and bottles perched in garden urns. Other decorative items, such as vintage suitcases, globes, pomander balls, and French books gave an old-world feel to food tables, while old-fashioned frames and cafe-style chalkboards listed menu items. Nease created a simple banner by clothes-pinning personal photographs from her French vacation to a twine rope.

What to serve: French wine and champagne makes the perfect starting point for an elegant cocktail or dessert party. Nease stuck with pretty, easy-to-eat finger foods like goat cheese tarts with caramelized onions, brie tarts with strawberry preserves, and mini quiches. She also created snack cones &mdash filled with French fries &mdash out of decorative scrapbook paper embellished with fleur-de-lis.

A dessert table featured fruit tartlets, palmiers, chocolate-espresso butter cream macarons and the pièce de résistance: a croquembouche (tower of pastries) that Nease fashioned from store-bought cream puffs.

What to send home: Add a classy touch with a special party favor. Nease embellished simple brown paper bags with scrapbook paper, monogram tags and a fleur-de-lis wax seal. She filled the bags with monogrammed items like note pads and note cards. Other possible take-homes could include lavender sachets and soaps or a sampling of French chocolates with French roast coffee &mdash just enough for a petite pour.

Lori Lange, the author of the Recipe Girl cookbook and blog, loves the food and flavors of Greece: lamb, garlic, lemon, eggplant, and feta. So when it was her turn to host the neighborhood&rsquos gourmet get-together, she settled on a Greek theme. Opa!

How to decorate: Lange used the colors of the Greek flag, blue and white, accented with shiny gold to fashion a table worth of the gods. Blue and white dishes, tablecloth, and glass beads set the backdrop. She then created centerpieces using pieces of gold lame from the fabric store and vases filled with branches of golden-yellow blossoms and rosemary.

What to wear: For a playful crowd, encourage guests to wear togas, or offer artificial laurel wreaths to wear on their heads. If your group isn&rsquot quite as spirited, Lange suggests accessorizing outfits with flashy gold jewelry.

What to serve: Start the evening with appetizers that draw on Greece&rsquos signature ingredients. Lange served marinated eggplant with capers and mint goat cheese with olives, lemon and thyme, served on crisp rosemary flatbread and dried fig souvlaki &mdash all huge hits with her guests. She also concocted Greek mojitos, a twist on the classic Cuban mixed drink, which she made with Greek metaxa in place of rum.

A Greek meal traditionally centers around a signature lamb dish, like a roast or chops. If you&rsquore not a lamb lover or it&rsquos too pricey for your budget, look for a chicken recipe that calls for copious amounts of lemon, garlic, and rosemary. Lange&rsquos side dishes included a spinach, feta, and pine nut tart roasted garbanzo beans and garlic with Swiss chard (&ldquoa surprise favorite,&rdquo she says) and Greek potatoes with lemon vinaigrette. (All Lange&rsquos recipes are available at recipegirl.com.)

What to do: Let your guests test their knowledge of Greek history, geology, and mythology with homemade trivia cards distributed at each place setting. Go to quizlet.com and search for &ldquoGreek&rdquo to find plenty of interesting factoids.

Party stylist Chris Nease says ideas for parties hit her at the strangest times. &ldquoThere&rsquos always an inspiration piece to get juices flowing. This time it was little, red takeout boxes,&rdquo she says. What followed was an Asian-fusion dinner party spotlighting many of the flavors Nease and her friends love.

How to decorate: Nease stuck with Chinese color scheme of red, black, and gold, drawing on the takeout boxes that inspired the event. For the table centerpiece, she used a bamboo runner, then wrapped a bamboo placemat around a cylindrical vase and filled it with bamboo fronds and curly willow branches. Other accent pieces included Japanese fans, black and white river rocks, a Buddha statue she found at a discount store and a Japanese teapot her husband brought home from a business trip. Nonetheless, Nease cautions to keep the look uncluttered. &ldquoAsian decor is very sleek and minimalist,&rdquo she says. (To view her table, visit her site celebrationsathomeblog.com.)

What to serve: Asian restaurants have finger foods down to an art, so kick off the party with a selection of snacks made at home or ordered from a favorite eatery. Eggrolls, dumplings, sushi, and potstickers appeal to a wide crowd if you want to get adventurous, consider Thai-inspired shrimp or edamame hummus on rice crackers. Instead of standard cocktails, serve sake or soju (a Korean rice beverage) or offer a selection of Asian beers, such as Sapporo or Tsingtao.

For her main meal, Nease served chicken satay and Asian noodle salad. For dessert? Chinese fortune cookies, of course &mdash served in little red takeout boxes. Don&rsquot forget to end the meal with a steaming pot of green tea.

What music to play: Search online radio stations, such as pandora.com, spotify.com, or grooveshark.com to find an Asian music mix you enjoy. Pandora.com, for instance, offers an &ldquoAsian Instrumentals&rdquo station whose artists give traditional Chinese and Japanese instruments a smoother, jazz-like sound.

When her mother traveled back to Lisbon to research her family&rsquos Portuguese roots, Lori Lange caught the heritage bug. She pored over photographs from her mother&rsquos travels and paged through David Leite&rsquos cookbook, The New Portuguese Table, for ideas and inspiration. Then she threw a dinner party to share this newfound knowledge with friends.

How to decorate: Lange showcased Portugal&rsquos rustic, old-world beauty in her table decorations. She used a red tablecloth and richly patterned runner to create a warm backdrop, then added brown woven placemats reminiscent of Lisbon&rsquos cobblestone streets. She topped off each setting with thick ceramic plates and bowls. Centerpieces included vases filled with wine corks, wrapped in raffia, and adorned with chunky candles, a visual nod to the country&rsquos fine wines. (Visit recipegirl.com for more photographs.)

What to serve: &ldquoWhen I put on a party, I like to make it as authentic as possible,&rdquo says Lange, who even contacted cookbook author Leite to make sure she got the recipes just right. Her menu included appetizers of green olive dip and smoked ham with melon a Portuguese salad made with green peppers, cucumbers and plum tomatoes a spicy pork stew with clams and red pepper sauce and roasted potatoes with smoked sausage and tomatoes. Guests sipped sangria before dinner and sampled Portuguese wines throughout the meal. Lange said guests raved about dessert: an orange cake (bolo de laranja) made with olive oil instead of vegetable oil. For more Portuguese menu options, visit David Leite&rsquos site.

What to do: Lange&rsquos dinner party conversation centered on the Portuguese culture, which Lange could describe from her mother&rsquos travels and her own research. If you want to pre-empt any awkward silences, take it one step further and leave a conversation card with a fun fact about the featured locale at each place setting. &ldquoThat way everyone can learn something new about the country,&rdquo she says. For background music, keep it classical with 12-string guitar legend Carlos Paredes or reach for a more contemporary sound, such as Rodrigo Leão&rsquos O Mundo album.


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